Here, on the southernmost of the Uncanoonuc hills that rise south of Goffstown, is the Shirley Hill Farm and the Benedikt Dairy.
I saw this farm yesterday for the first time. I thought the Uncanooncucs were just hills no different than any other hills. Wooded, unremarkable. Just hills. Somewhere to be crossed to get to Bedford. Not interesting enough to visit.
I was wrong. To turn off Wallace Road onto Shirley Hill Road – to find oneself in vast pastures and gardens lined with sunflowers , and telephone lines where dozens of barn swallows sit waiting for the instinct that tells them “leave now- go up and away into the August night”.
From a distance the South Uncanoonuc looks like the head of an unkempt old man with only a dozen upward bristles left on his scalp. These are an encampment of cell and tele towers that now run our lives. How incongruous they are, on the hilltop above the peace of this farmland with its smell of Jersey cows and the barnyard, with the fields of Queen Ann’s Lace. I stepped out of my car and was back over sixty years, in the old pastures and barnyards of the Alfred Smith Farm and the Haynes Farm on the Unity Road in North Charlestown.
But that was in the Valley of the Connecticut, and this high pasture with its haze and blue hills, cicadas and grasshoppers innumerable seemed far closer to heaven.
Strange, then, that one of the strongest feelings, I have about this enchanted place- is fear.
I am old now, and I have seen too much. I have seen what happens to pastures and fields that should be sacred. In the almost forty years I lived in a city in the South I saw a field of butterfly weed out on TN Rte 100 become a fried chicken shack.
I saw one of the most beautiful valleys in Middle Tennessee destroyed by a developer and complicit heirs . No more giant oaks on the edge of pastures. No more meadowlarks in the fields and Indigo Buntings flashing blue onto the fence wires. No more solitary kingbird watching over a stream lined with watercress.
A “planned community”, dreaded and loathed and resisted by its horrified neighbors. Million dollar homes and faux downtown streets.
I remember the last innocent evening the beagle and I walked along the dirt road through this valley. Another woman was walking her dog. We spoke about the loveliness of the old farm.
“Enjoy it now”, she said, “It won’t be here much longer”.
An abomination within sight of the National Park Service’s Natchez Trace Parkway.